8 Days to GO!
What a roller coaster ride the past three months have been. Just look
for a bit - three months ago we were still struggling with the SADC
hopeful that Mbeki and the SADC leadership would force Mugabe to play
and allow a free and fair vote. Then came the blunt refusal by Mugabe
along with the reforms negotiated over 9 months between Zanu PF and the
Then the desperate attempts to get the opposition to unite - fresh
negotiations, a deal is struck and then rejected by the political
(not the top leadership) of the MDC and we were faced with an election
six weeks, no money, a divided opposition and widespread disbelief in
electoral process - why vote, was the most frequently asked question.
Then came the Makoni bombshell. I was about to go onto a radio talk
South Africa when friends called me to say Makoni was holding a press
conference in Harare and was coming in as a new Presidential candidate.
knew that was a most significant development and I broke the news on SA
radio and said that in my view this event would shake up the whole
establishment here and might change the outlook for the elections.
It did both; it was the first senior defection from Zanu PF in recent
The Makoni decision was followed by a number of others as rumors of his
support base in Zanu PF spread. But you can never predict what will
in a situation like this because the law of unintended consequences
follows through. What we did not expect to happen was the impact it
the outlook of the general population towards the election. Skeptism
immediately transformed into expectation.
People began to register to vote again, interest in the political
stepped up and the national debate grew to a crescendo. Whatever the
people thought that with Zanu PF divided and the armed forces clearly
minds, that Mugabe would not be able to rig this election the way he
2002 and 2005. Money began to flow into the political process; people
off the shelf and threw themselves into the fray. MDC was able to field
nearly 2000 candidates and demonstrated a degree of preparedness that
all by surprise.
A short campaign has ensued. MDC rallies and meeting across the whole
country have attracted large audiences - record attendance in many
when compared to the past 8 years of almost continuous political
But more than that - people suddenly gained the confidence to flaunt
party regalia and demonstrate their support.
For Makoni et al the situation peaked about two weeks ago and their
as reflected in the polls being conducted among the voting populations
that their support is now waning - at the last count Makoni had 8 per
of the national vote with 27 per cent saying that would not disclose
they would vote for and 17 per cent saying they would not vote. Morgan
Tsvangirai is now well in the lead in the polls with Makoni still
Mugabe. How anyone who is not nuts can still support Mugabe is a
So here we are - 8 days to go and what can we expect? Pretty much
and everybody is behaving according to our expectations. The SADC
mission is here led by Angola where democratic elections are still a
dream. They have already stated that the conditions are free and fair!
a hoot! I am looking forward to all the other 'democratic' States
China, Libya among them. Morgan said that the observer missions were a
of time and money; Zimbabweans are on their own.
Still no international press here, still no programming on State
media, still full-page ads from Zanu PF in every daily newspaper. But
PF has not held one meeting in Bulawayo and the Presidential rally has
cancelled. Just to show them what might happen if they did come to
a local Party hack sponsored a football match with a substantial prize
free beer and was rewarded by the crowd roaring their approval when a
shirt walked into the Stadium and sat near the dignitaries. Then at the
of the match the crowd sang rude songs about Zanu PF and the actual
of the event. Great to see people not afraid any more.
I sense a real shift in the Police - perhaps its because I have had
do with them this time - normally the closest I get to a Policeman is
confrontation at a rally or march. This past week we had the CIO arrest
three volunteers putting up posters - they took them into custody,
them around and forced them to eat a poster. The Police officer to whom
complained phoned the CIO and said that if the MDC people were nor
immediately he would charge them with assault - he then instructed
victims to go to a doctor and get a medical report and lay charges
the CIO. That has not happened before - I do not know who was more
the CIO operatives or us!
I am exhausted and wonder how Morgan is coping - he is in the rural
most days, speaking and traveling continuously. The pressure is
Sunday he speaks at a Star rally in the Zimbabwe grounds where Simba
launched his campaign three weeks ago before a small (3000) crowd. I am
going up for that and expect to see a massive crowd if the recent weeks
been anything to go by.
We should all now prepare for the election itself. We intend to declare
result from our own field reports and I am sure we will be the first to
what has happened - so watch your news on Sunday morning. We have had
threats from the military and a clear statement from South Africa that
would not tolerate any military intervention, but anything is possible.
just pray for a landslide that no one can argue with. Then comes the
part - coping with the complete mess Zanu PF leaves as its legacy of
years of failed and corrupt government.
Bulawayo, 21st March 2008